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Hayfever prompts call for exam changes.

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

EDUCATIONAL achievement is being stunted by the annual misery of hayfever as children sneeze and sniff their way through their exams.

Exams should be moved to cooler months when streaming noses and bloodshot eyes do not interfere with the level of concentration required to achieve a first-class grade, campaigners said last night.

More than two million students across Britain are believed to suffer from hayfever - 40% of whom must endure the symptoms while they sit their GCSE or A-level exams.

The thousands of students preparing to sit their GCSE and A-level exams this year in Wales will do so just as plants start to release tons of pollen into the atmosphere, spreading untold misery and distractions.

And the Key Stage 2 Sats in Wales are due to start next week in the midst of the tree and rape seed pollen season.

The impact of hayfever on youngsters has led education experts and leading alternative medicine practitioners to suggest moving exams from summer months to winter in a bid to help sufferers achieve better grades.

But the National Union of Teachers in Wales has gone one step further proposing a system of continuous assessment that would serve to reduce the number of exams pupils - especially younger children - face every year.

A survey, on behalf of a herbal remedy manufacturer, found that the impact of hayfever can be so severe that almost a quarter (24%) of teenagers said they had been forced to stay at home, miss school activities or both.

And more than one-third (36%) said they thought their performance at school in exams or just concentrating in class suffered as a result of hayfever.

Author and broadcaster Michael van Straten, an expert in complementary medicine, said parents frequently brought young children to his practice complaining that they were not sleeping or eating properly as a result of such stress.

``It's just one loading on them at a time of year when they are much more likely to suffer because of their allergic problems,'' he said.

Gethin Lewis, secretary of NUT Cymru, added, ``There are too many exams and they all seem to be compressed into the summer months when the weather is at its best. No one can perform in an exam when their noses are streaming and their eyes are bloodshot.

``And while we still do need some end-of-course exams they should be done at times when we can ensure that students are not going to be affected by physical conditions or the reactions of their own bodies.''
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 8, 2003
Words:422
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